Drivers from eight different countries will compete in identical Ford Fiesta R2 cars in the first of six rounds, all of which support the FIA World Rally Championship.
The series, which has been upgraded from the FIA WRC Academy to full world title status, is regarded as the first opportunity for potential stars of the future to display their talent on the world stage.
Those crowned Junior WRC champion in the past include Sébastien Loeb, Dani Sordo and Sébastien Ogier.
The series comprises gravel events in Portugal, Greece and Finland, asphalt rounds in Germany and France and a mixed-surface rally in Spain to close the championship. Only drivers born on or after 1 January 1986 are eligible.
Three drivers - Yeray Lemes (ESP), José Suárez (ESP) and Pontus Tidemand (SWE) - contested the series in previous years. They will be joined by newcomers Sander Parn (EST), Martin Koèi (SVK), Andreas Amberg (FIN), Murat Bostanci (TUR), Michael Burri (CHE), Niko Nieminen (FIN) and Marius Aasen (NOR).
All Fiesta R2s will be supplied, prepared and maintained by M-Sport at its premises in Krakow, Poland. South Korean company Hankook Tires will supply the tyres.
All 10 contenders have their eyes set on landing the top prize of an M-Sport supported drive in a Ford Fiesta R5 in next season’s FIA WRC 2 Championship, the principal feeder series to the WRC itself.
Craig Breen, now starring in the FIA European Championship, won in 2011 and Elfyn Evans triumphed last year. Evans begins his prize drive in the WRC 2 category this weekend.
World Rally Championship Rally Director Jarmo Mahonen is confident the series will live up to the excitement of the previous two seasons.
“We have already had two great seasons with this series and both winners have really grabbed the opportunity to progress their rallying careers,” he said.
“The FIA's junior series is proving to be a very successful springboard for youngsters, providing them with an opportunity to shine on the world stage and at a realistic price. The identical cars and single tyre system offers a level playing field for the drivers,” added Mahonen.
The Junior WRC category will cover the first two of Rally de Portugal’s three legs, covering 11 special stages and 239.09km.